When He Couldn’t Say “I Love You”

We met twenty five years before this picture was taken.

Long before this picture was taken, when Alex and I met, I was thirty and he was a couple years older. At first, I didn’t want to go out with him cause he was such a player in Hot Springs. It seemed been with half the hot waitresses in town.

But once we got over the weirdness and were actually “dating” it was obvious we were so different. He was and still is, a very stoic man. He doesn’t talk unless he has something to say and back then he definitely didn’t say “I love you.”

On the other side of the universe there was Diana. I come from a verbose, storytelling, over-hugging, “I love you so much man,” family.

I was young and misread Alex’s lack of words or outward emotion. He rarely complimented me or said “I love you” so I was on the verge or writing him off as a cold, emotionless, hot guy.

But there was still something…..We’d been dating for a few weeks. He was working on a construction project at his house, out in the country.  I decided I’d surprise him with lunch. Because he was a chef ,I thought I better go fancy if I wanted to impress him. I took him two cups of Gazpacho, a cold Spanish tomato and cucumber soup along with fresh tomatoes stuffed with chicken salad and topped with paprika.

When I delivered the lunch I was super proud of my thoughtful self.  We sat on the floor in his living room and he ate every bite.  Nodding as he ate, which I took to be a good sign. And he said “thank you.”

A month later, I watched him , with surgeon like precision, remove every sliver of tomato from three tacos at a Mexican restaurant called Acapulco’s.

“Don’t like tomatoes, huh?” I asked cautiously.

“I hate them, they’re gross. If they’re cooked I can tolerate a little, but I can’t do raw tomatoes.”

I just smiled. Maybe this man had other ways of communicating.

Not long after ‘the tomato incident,” Mary, Jack and I went to visit this quiet man. We were all watching Aladdin when Mary, who was three, went to the bathroom. Then I heard her panicked voice , “Momma Momma Momma.” When she was excited it was always three Mommas.

I bounded across the house and found her crying as the toilet overflowed. Waterfalls filled the bathroom and she was standing on a red towel….her only Island.

Alex came in, silently turned off the water behind the toilet, then extracted a stuffed Princess Jasmine from the toilet.

I was horrified and so embarrassed, we’d only been dating three months and look what my child had done. “I’m so, so, so sorry, oh my gosh, I’m  sorry. I don’t know why she….”

But he interrupted me with a shrug, as though it was nothing. He left then reappeared with a mop. “It’s just a little Mary pee.”

That was one of the hundreds of moments that told me how he felt.

“It’s just a little Mary pee.”

There were other times he told me he loved me, long before he could say he loved me. He literally stole my car while I was working lunches at Rocky’s Corner so he could have new brakes installed.

Sometimes, my effusive words don’t seem to mean much compared to his silence.  Talking is easy. Listening when people don’t talk, that’s where the magic is.

Is He A Good Boyfriend?

andy and maryAndy and my daughter, Mary, talk about “love languages” all the time.  I don’t have a clue what that means.  But I do know different people say, “I love you” in entirely different ways. Sometimes, it’s not what we want or need, but it’s what they have to give.

When Alex and I first started dating Jack and Mary were three and four. They adored him but he didn’t know how to act around kids. He’d never been near children and I suspect was never actually a child himself.  I think he went from infant to surly 13 year old and skipped all the fun stuff in between.

Jack and Mary wanted to hold his hand when we walked. He was painfully awkard. They said,”I love you,” to him and he’d say something like,”yeah, goodnight,” and pat them on the back.   At 32 the only contact Alex was comfortable with was letting them sit on his back while he did push-ups in front of me.

But there was something there; we all sensed it. He seemed lost, awkward and dark…but we knew there was something there.

Alex and I had been dating four or five months but we weren’t living together when our first August blurred into September. I was panicked because it was time for back to school shopping and I was so broke. I had a small magazine, “The Springs,” and was paying myself just enough to pay for rent and food. I took a second job working as a waitress at Rocky’s Corner, but it still wasn’t enough to pay for back to school supplies, tuition and clothes for the kids.

Then Alex did something unimaginable.  He pawned his 9mm pistol for $105 dollars so I could take care of my children. He didn’t know how to hug them but he knew how to help. It was his love language.

A few weeks ago Mary called to brag on Andy. They’d gone to a party and stayed too late. When they got home Andy tucked Mary into bed and the next morning got up at two am to handle their paper route alone. Then, despite being sleepless and I suspect hungover, they came to visit and Andy played in the creek with 12 year old Sandor.  That’s an entire love language conversation.

And in return Mary does the most remarkable things for Andy. She spends weeks shopping for his birthday and finds gifts so remarkable thoughtful and perfect…so Andy will be happy.

When it comes to being a boyfriend my oldest son, Jack, is a rock star. Every Christmas and birthday he’s blows it out of the water. It’s hard to compete. But his girlfriend Kristin recently out did him. He returned from a two month trip to France and Morocco and found Kristen had not only taken his old truck to be serviced. She had the blown out air bags and seat belts replaced. Now that’s a love language.

So, when we are wondering if he’s a good boyfriend, when we’re asking ourselves “does she really care”. Make sure you translate their love language. Maybe it’s not the same as yours but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful or heartfelt.

PS Here’s a random idea. Somebody find me a publisher or agent. Thanks.